Volume 17(1), 2021-06, 22—44

Mobile money and the impact of mobile phone regulatory enforcement among the urban poor in Tanzania

Laura Stark
Department of History and Ethnology
University of Jyväskylä
Finland

Mobile money provides a tool for survival, particularly in urban conditions shaped by city regulations that make microvending difficult for the poor. An analysis of 165 interviews conducted in two low-income neighborhoods in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania over 8 years demonstrates how interlocked layers of technology and interaction make mobile money services semiformal. I introduce two mobile money-enabled survival strategies: intrahousehold transfers for day-to-day survival (transfers within the same city) and resource safeguarding through kin remittances of start-up capital (home-based subsistence business capital stored for kin access in emergencies). The recent tightening of mobile phone regulations in the global South has disrupted users’ multilevel and formal/informal-hybrid infrastructures of money movement in these communities. Such tougher regulations could result in a new digital divide that hinders rather than facilitates the financial inclusion of the poor.

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